Musician Pharrell's "New Black" Concept Elicits Strong Response
This has been an amazing year for singer, songwriter,
producer Pharrell Williams, but tempers flared at the cover for his new
album, GIRL, which didn’t feature an obviously black girl. That led to
several recent interviews in which he counted himself among the “new
“The new black doesn’t blame other
races for our issues,” he told Oprah Winfrey. "The new black dreams and
realizes that it’s not a pigmentation, it’s a mentality. And it’s
either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you and
you’ve got to pick which side you’re gonna be on.”
The response was quick. Twitter exploded with the hashtag #WhatKindOfBlackAreYou.
I'm a "talk about slavery and race relations loud in public because you could learn a thing or two" kind of Black #whatkindofblackareyou
We showed Pharrell’s Oprah interview to a group of students and staff at Prince George’s Community College.
“He doesn't want to see himself as
not being black but just that's not what defines him,” said Marshall
Johnson, Prince George’s Community College cable station coordinator.
"It's about having a new balance,
recognizing that you're black and again, applying the new black and
moving forward," said 19-year old student Kahlia Canty. “Seeing race
and knowing that it exists and moving forward.”
Librarian and researcher Janet
Sims-Wood, Ph.D. added, “It's a different generation. All of us have to
get along in this world. So, I like what he said.”
Greg Carr, Ph.D. chairs the
Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. He says not
Pharrell, but his comment, seems a bit naïve.
"When you're talking about a group
of people who were brought here to work, who were never meant to be
citizens, who fought their way out of that structure of systematic
inequality,” Carr said. “To say that black is a mentality is absurd on
Black thinkers and artists, Dr. Carr
added, have long reinvented and expanded the black experience in
America. There's always been a new black and with advancement of a
Pharrell or an Oprah or an Obama comes some degree of responsibility to
those struggling-- in black history and black present.
“Struggle, in fact, gave us a
context to interpret, but struggle is not the meaning of black life,"
Carr said. “And I think that ultimately, each individual can tap into
that stream, regardless of that individual's background and avail
themselves of the beauty of that perpetually new blackness."
Back at PGCC, the conversation
turned to one about many groups-- based on race, class and gender. The
consensus was that in 2014, those things are all intermingled.
For me it's a matter of educating so
that they will know who they are and what they have to be proud of,”
said Dr. Sims-Wood. “A lot of times I look at our students and they're
not proud. I don't care what their color is.”